Publication Date



cognition, recognition, King Lear


Although King Lear’s half-line “You are a spirit I know” (IV.vii.49) has no internal punctuation in the Folio or Quarto versions of Shakespeare’s play, most modern editors add a comma between the words “spirit” and “I.” This spurious comma forces the line to be interpreted to mean “I know that you are a spirit” rather than “You are a spirit that I know,” whereas, without punctuation, both interpretations are viable. I argue that the latter reading is not only possible, based on Shakespeare’s syntactical practices, but also preferable, based on both the immediate context of the line and the theme of recognition (and misrecognition) developed throughout the play. Therefore, I contend that this comma represents an inappropriate and unfortunate emendation of Shakespeare’s text.